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Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
A totem at home in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building in Washington, D.C. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Schatz, Murkowski Announce Legislation To Establish A Commission On Federal Indian Boarding School Policies Heading To Senate Floor For Consideration
Thursday, June 20, 2024

The following is the text of a June 20, 2024, press release from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), vice chairman of the Committee, today announced the release of S.1723, Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act from Committee.

The legislation, authored by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and co-led by Senator Murkowski, would establish a federal commission to investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government’s former Indian Boarding School policies. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

“For more than a century, the federal government’s Indian Boarding School policies and practices sought to destroy Native languages, cultures, and identities. The Committee has heard from and reflected on over 100 comments from survivors, descendants, Tribal leaders, Tribal citizens, advocates, religious organizations, local governments, and experts about the need for Congress to act and help address the intergenerational impacts of the shameful history of Indian Boarding Schools,” said Chairman Schatz. “It’s long past time that we reckon with this painful history. Now that this bill is ready for floor action, I look forward to moving it through the Senate quickly.”

“It is the responsibility of the U.S. government to come to terms with the dark legacy of the Indian boarding school era, and to help all those affected to find healing. That’s why I introduced legislation with Senator Warren to create this formal truth and healing commission,” said Senator Murkowski. “By acknowledging past wrongs and actively working toward transparency and justice, we can begin to rebuild trust with Indigenous communities who still feel the repercussions of these federal assimilationist policies. The details and the work documented in today’s committee report further demonstrate the need for this legislation. I encourage my colleagues to act quickly to enact this legislation into law before the end of the year.”

“For over a century, the cruel Indian Boarding School policies ripped children from their homes, and forced them into schools where they faced abuse, neglect, trauma, and even death. A Truth and Healing Commission will help us fully investigate the effects of these policies and propose ways to heal the harms caused. Today marks a critical step toward passing my bill to create that commission, and I urge Congress to pass this bill,” said Senator Warren.

An amended version of S. 1723 passed out of Committee, reflecting extensive bipartisan review, analysis, and debate of comments from the Administration, Native people and communities, Faith groups, and others. The Committee has prepared a comprehensive committee report reflecting this feedback.

The full Committee report of S.1723 is available here, and the reported text is available here. A summary and overview of the bill is available here. Answers to frequently asked questions are available here.